The Marietta High boys and girls cross country teams have made a name for themselves with their performances over the recent years.
"We've had a really nice run," said head coach Dale Leeper. "People know who we are now. The guys team gelled and the girls really came on strong"
Official practice doesn't begin until Aug. 6, but the 2011 ECOL champs have met for six of ten contact days, and will use its final three days as a residential camp from Aug. 1-3.
"It's an opportunity to spend some time together, do some things and work on team chemistry," Leeper said. "It's very low key. The other day it was raining so we went inside and had banana splits."
The team is losing six of its top eight male runners and four of its top eight female runners. For the boys, Alex Wesel, Samuel Garrison, Sophus Joergensen, Glenn Morris, Ben Bricker, and Nate Diehl all graduated. The girls are losing Abby Ketelsen to graduation, while Erica Dawson will be a senior but has chosen to focus on basketball. In spite of this, Leeper is confident the team will still have success.
"We've got a nice group of freshman and sophomore runners, on both the girls' and boys' side," Leeper said. "We're gonna have young teams, but i think that is what makes athletics so special - you never know what's around the next corner. It will be fun to watch kids step up."
Returning for the boys will be Mitchell Grose, Avery Phillips, Jake Haught, Kody Phillips, and David Vann. Leeper also expects to get contributions from freshmen Corey Hines and Jeff Davis. On the girls' side, Julie Fobes, Lizzie Frazier, and Amelia Cain are all back.
"Can we replicate (what we did last year)? I don't know," Leeper said. "Both teams did very well last year. But I know the kids will compete and give it their all."
It certainly won't be an easy task to match last year's performance, as the boys posted a record near 93-18, while the girls were around 83-23. However, Leeper said if they can accomplish their goals, they should be right where they want to be.
"Our number one goal is to build team chemistry," Leeper said. "I know many people look at it as an individual sport, but our goal is to develop chemistry as a team. Our second goal is to develop some runners. If we can do those things, we should be successful."